Chicago to install 500 modular sensors in citywide 'fitness tracker' project

The city of Chicago has partnered with researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Library, among several other corporations, on a project that will allow city officials and the public to instantly access data on air quality, noise levels and pedestrian and vehicular traffic, according to USA Today.

Last week, two of 500 modular sensor boxes, also called nodes, were installed under the "Array of Things" project, the first initiative of its kind in the U.S. Plans to replicate the project in more than a dozen other cities, such as Atlanta, Chattanooga, Tenn., and Seattle, are already underway.

The Chicago project, which was funded in part by a $3.1 million National Science Foundation Grant, will provide a myriad of data on environmental health factors to city residents through the official Chicago website beginning in mid-October.

The 10-pound modular sensor boxes will be connected to light poles around the city. They will measure air and surface temperature, barometric pressure, light, vibration, carbon monoxide levels, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone and ambient sound intensity, according to the report. Two cameras in each sensor box will also collect data on foot and automobile traffic, standing water, sky color and cloud cover.

By the end of 2016, the city expects to install a total of 50 sensor boxes, and 450 more will be activated by 2018, according to the report.

The information collected from the sensors will guide city officials' decisions about bus service and help residents make decisions on transportation.

"For residents, the ability to have real-time information when you bike to school or to work and to choose the lowest pollution route, once all the nodes are up, is something we envision for the future," said Brenna Berman, Chicago's CIO. "What it means for the city is if we know there are pockets of poor air, we can work with environmentalists and community groups to improve air quality in those areas of the city that need that focus."

Additionally, the traffic data will be used to help inform policy and infrastructure decisions designed to reduce traffic fatalities in Chicago.

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